Easter Sunday attacks: Cardinal rejects TNA’s interpretation

‘foreign group used misguided local youth’


By Shamindra Ferdinando

Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, yesterday, rejected Tamil National Alliance (TNA) claim that the failure on the part of successive governments to address the grievances of minorities over the past several decades had led to the Easter Sunday carnage.

Nearly 260, including almost 50 foreigners perished in coordinated attacks carried out by Muslim youth on April 21. Approximately 500 others suffered injuries.

Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith was responding to TNA Jaffna District MP M.A. Sumanthiran. The Island raised the issue at a media briefing jointly called by the Catholic Church and the Buddhist clergy at the Bishop’s House, Borella. The Buddhist clergy was represented by the Most Ven. Ittapane Dhammalankara Nayaka thera, of Kotte Sri Kalayani Samagri Dharma Maha Sangha Sabha of Siyam Maha Nikaya.

When The Island sought Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith’s response to lawmaker Sumanthiran’s claim, the Catholic leader asserted that the situation had been wrongly interpreted.

Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith emphasized that some misguided local youth had been used by an international group to carry out multiple attacks in Sri Lanka.

The government as well as the international community blamed ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) for the first major operation undertaken by the group in this part of the world.

The government yesterday issued a gazette notice proscribing the National Thowheed Jama’ath (NTJ), Jama’athe Milla’athe Ibrahim (JMI) and Willayath As Seylani (WAS).

President’s Counsel Sumanthiran said Sri Lanka had paved the way for the Easter Sunday attacks by not addressing the grievances of the Muslim youth. He said so at an event to celebrate the first anniversary of the Sinhala weekly paper Annidda at the BMICH on April 29. Among those present were Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, President’s Counsel Dr. Jayampathy Wickremaratne, MP Mano Ganeshan, Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission Dr Deepika Udagama, Chairman of the Office of Missing Persons Saliya Peiris, PC, Dr Nalinda Jayatissa, MP and a section of the civil society.

Former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and attorney-at-law Javid Yusuf, who addressed the gathering following MP Sumanthiran and took an entirely a different position.

At the onset of the briefing the Buddhist and Catholic leaders urged leaders of major political parties to rein in their supporters or face the consequences.

Expressing serious concern over resumption of violence with incidents in Chilaw last Sunday (May 12) quickly spreading into neighbouring areas finally compelling the government to impose countrywide curfew on Monday night, they appealed for swift intervention by political leaders.

They warned of a catastrophe unless tangible measures were taken to prevent further incidents.

Asked by The Island whether they really believed political parties would heed their latest advice as previous requests given over the past three weeks were simply ignored, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith admitted that those in authority turned a blind eye to their appeals.

The Cardinal said that the situation would have been much better if the government had methodically conducted cordon and search operations covering all areas. Instead, searches were conducted in an ad hoc manner thereby allowing troublemakers to retain various dangerous items. He called for thorough searches of houses occupied by Muslims and Catholics.

Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith cited several instances where those in power ignored their appeals for addressing s post April 21 threats.

Responding to Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera’s recent declaration that Sri Lanka wasn’t a Sinhala Buddhist country, both Ven Dhammalankara Nayaka thera and Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith said it could not be disputed that Sri Lanka was a Buddhist country.

Asked by the print media what would be his advice to Muslim representatives in parliament under fire for promoting those blamed for the unprovoked attacks, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith said that Islam never promoted or encouraged violence. The Cardinal decried what he called despicable attempts to use religion for political projects.

His Eminence reiterated his long standing call to proscribe the use of religion or ethnicity as part of the name of political parties. The Catholic leader revealed how he had turned down a request by group of powerful Catholics to form a Catholic political party. The Cardinal said that attempts to exploit religion should be blocked.

Both Buddhist and Catholic leaders urged political parties not to exploit the situation for their benefit but adopt strategies to contain and prevent fresh incidents. The political parties were urged to forget forthcoming national level elections and work towards the speedy resolution of problems.

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